Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Allegedly tells the story of teenager, Mary B. Addison who was convicted of killing a three-month old in her mother’s care when she was nine-years-old. She has done time in “baby jail” and currently lives in a group home where she contends with harsh and negligent caretakers, a hopeless group therapist, and other girls who are all different kinds of dangerous. She is visited by her deluded mother every week who Mary often blames for her suffering. She is forced to contend with her past and what really happened to baby Alyssa when she herself falls pregnant.
“Well, people tend not to think clearly when a black girl is suspected of killing a little white girl.”
“What you may or may not have done is not the definition of who you really are.”
“It’s easier to put an animal in a cage than to play with it.”
“What does it mean when you love and hate someone at the same time?” I ask. He laughs. “It means they family.”
“Our eyes meet, both knowing `it ain’t that simple to give up on people you love that don’t love you the same.”
Mary’s voice is often angry, fearful, loving, and hopeful all at the same time. She genuinely loves learning and just wants to find people who would love her and her child. The reader hopes with her when she studies for her SATs, finds a lawyer, and defends herself against the people who constantly disappoint her. Mary is often an island. She reasonably doesn’t trust many people, but Jackson still exposes Mary to different perspectives of troubled people. Jackson doesn’t spell anything out for the reader, but shows us different flashes of condemned people. Every character is surprising, and the situations the reader follows Mary through aren’t easy at all to judge one way.
I read other reviews of Allegedly, and many people are disturbed by the ending. I had to take some time to process it. Some readers think it’s too drastic and takes away from the overall message of injustice. I do think that Jackson could have provided us with one or two more memories more relevant to the twist. At the end, I did feel a bit lied to, but in a way, it showed that everyone tells big and small lies, and some people have motives you may not ever discover.
As I followed Mary through her journey, I kept thinking that Allegedly would be so effective as a movie. The book paints so many visual pictures, and the ending might actually be better received using some subtle film nuances (I feel like people use that term a lot. I hope I’m using it right).